Brown basketball veterans’ new lawsuit against Ivy schools looks to change conference athletics landscape

A 64-page lawsuit filed in federal court this month could reshape the future of Ivy athletics.

Two Brown basketball players, one former and one current, filed the suit against the Ivy League and all eight member institutions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on March 7.

The plaintiffs are former All-Ivy forward Tamenang Choh and current junior guard Grace Kirk and was brought on behalf of a proposed class of all Ivy athletes recruited to play by league schools and were undergraduate student-athletes within the previous four years.

The lawsuit alleges that both Choh, who is now playing professional basketball in Europe, and Kirk received full cost-of-attendance scholarship offers from at least one other Division I university.

The eight universities’ endowments exceeded $192 billion in 2021, according to Forbes.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that NCAA restrictions on education-related benefits for student-athletes violate federal antitrust law.

In a concurring opinion in NCAA v. Alston, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a former Yale junior varsity basketball player, blistered the NCAA.

“Nowhere in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate,” Kavanaugh wrote. ” And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should
be any different. The NCAA is not above the law.”

Is the Ivy League acting above the law by not awarding athletic scholarships for its student-athletes? There are over 350 Division I institutions, and only the Ivy League’s eight member schools don’t grant athletic scholarships.

The Choh and Kirk lawsuit alleges that the Ivy League not offering athletic scholarships violates the Sherman Antitrust Act by price-fixing, raising the net price of education that Ivy athletes pay and suppressing compensation for the athletic services they provide Ivy schools.

Ivy schools have also violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by not reimbursing athletes education-related expenses for the athletic services they provide member schools, the lawsuit contends.

“The natural, foreseeable and intended result … is that Ivy League athletes have paid more for their education and earned less in compensation or reimbursement than they would have in the absence of the [alleged price-fixing] agreement,” the said.

Presiding over the case is District Judge Alvin W. Thompson, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1975 and law degree from Yale Law School in 1978.

The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction to stop the Ivies from the alleged price-fixing agreement and other money damages deemed proper by the court in addition to a determination the suit be a class action.

Columbia women’s coach Megan Griffith told Ivy Hoops Online that if the scholarship limitation is removed, the Ivy League can be “one of the best conferences in the country.”

“There are so many players I recruited who are at other schools,” Griffith said. “Money is power.”

Former Princeton women’s star and current Maryland standout Abby Meyers, was sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ cause.

”(Ivy) student-athletes are working day in and day out. We are missing that (scholarships),” Meyers told IHO. “Many athletes didn’t come here (Ivies) because there are no scholarships.”

Meyers was offered a scholarship to play at Stanford.

Len Elmore, an attorney and senior lecturer in sport management at Columbia, told the Yale Daily News in 2021 that he was recruited by Princeton but instead chose a full scholarship at Maryland because aid at Princeton was need-based and his parents didn’t “have the wherewithal” to subsidize his education. Elmore told the News that if Ivy schools offered full scholarships to athletes, they would become much more attractive options for recruits.

If any motions to dismiss the suit are denied, the case could lead to meaningful settlement discussions. If not, the case could end up before the Supreme Court, which already opined strongly in NCAA v. Alston in favor of student-athletes.